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Newt Gingrich super PAC sees $5-million boost from Vegas benefactors

January 10, 2012|By Tom Hamburger
(Andrew Burton / Getty Images )

Sheldon and Miriam Adelson wrote a personal check to Newt Gingrich's super PAC for $5 million late last Friday afternoon, and could send more -- though there are no promises. That's the description offered by a person close to the billionaire couple who is familiar with their thinking and the couple's long-standing relationship with Gingrich.

The money is being spent in part to fuel a massive advertising campaign in South Carolina attacking Mitt Romney, who had attacked Gingrich aggressively in Iowa. Sheldon Adelson, who has houses in Malibu and Las Vegas, made his fortune in the international gambling business. His personal money was sent without condition to the super PAC because Gingrich "is an old friend in a time of need," said the source, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the topic.

The money was sent to Winning Our Future, one of the candidate-specific super PACs that have been formed after a 2010 Supreme Court decision that permitted individuals, corporations and unions to give unlimited amounts to political groups providing they operated independently of an official campaign. Winning Our Future is staffed by Gingrich's long-time aides.

They say that the money they plan to spend in South Carolina is more than Barack Obama and John McCain spent combined on advertising in 2008. Most of the advertising time will be dedicated to 30- and 60-second advertising spots.

The staff is considering the possibility of buying time to air a 27-minute documentary film critical of Bain Capital, the private equity firm that Romney founded. The Los Angeles Times has reviewed the entire film, which has emotional interviews with employees who lost their jobs.  The film, produced by a filmmaker who once worked for Romney, has the tone of a high production value documentary. It has close-up shots of sympathetic former workers at firms acquired by Bain in the era when Romney was CEO: retired couples, a man wearing a veterans cap, and working-class families.

The Adelsons have no objection to private equity, the source said.

They gave the funds because they feel loyal Gingrich, who shares their concern for Israel, and whom they first met in Washington in 1995, at the time Congress was considering legislation important to Israel, the Jerusalem Embassy Act. The law would require the moving of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Israel has long claimed Jerusalem as the historic capital of the Jewish state. Palestinians also claim the city as their spiritual capital. Adelson's wife, whom he married in 1991, is an Israeli physician.

Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have refused to enact the statute using a waiver provision that exempts implementation on national security grounds.

Later, Adelson and Gingrich found common ground discussing tax policy and labor issues, but Israel is the topic on which they have the strongest bond. Gingrich and Adelson conferred at a time that Adelson was having trouble with unionized employees at his Las Vegas casino, the Sands.

The source close to the Adelsons said the couple, listed as among the wealthiest people in the U.S.,  are likely to spend additional sums as the 2012 campaign continues, though no amount has been determined.

Asked for a reaction, Ron Reese, spokesman for Adelson's company, the Las Vegas Sands Corp., said "Mr. Adelson does not publicly discuss" his private giving.

tom.hamburger@latimes.com

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